Posts Tagged ‘hanukkiah’

Bubbe’s Hanukkah Poem

Miriam and the Oil Lamps

Miriam gazed at the flickering shadow in the room of the one oil lamp sitting on the wooden table.   She could barely recall the story of Judah Maccabee and the desecration of the Temple a hundred years earlier that had been told to her by her grandparents and parents.  This year, like the many years that had passed since she was a young girl,  her heart recalled a personal miracle.

She had just readied herself for the night, and shivering from the winter’s chill slid between coverings on her bed.   In the darkness of the room as she began to warm, she could feel herself slipping into a peaceful sleep.     She thought she was dreaming when a great light suddenly illuminated her room.  She tried to open her eyes, but the light was so bright that she had to squint until the light enveloped her.  A heavenly being stood before her.  She could still hear his words as if that moment had just happened, “Shalom favored woman!  Elohim is with you!”

She had been deeply confused by his words and wondered why she was being greeted by an angel.  She got out of bed and knelt before him with her head bowed.  “Don’t be afraid Miriam for you have found favor with God.  You will be come pregnant and you will give birth to a son.  You are to name him, Yeshua.  He will be great, he will be called the son of the Ehyeh Asher Ehye, the Most High God. Elohim will give him the throne of his father David and he will rule the house of Jacob forever.  There will be no end to his kingdom.”

Astonished with his words, she understood that she had become highly favored.  She was receiving the message of hope that all young women for generations desired –– to become the vessel for the coming Messiah.  She responded with the only words that came to her heart, “I am the servant of the Most High Elohim.  May it happen to me as you have said.” 

Immediately she felt the Spirit of the Living God come upon her. It sweetly and gently touched her womb. She knew that within her body a baby had been conceived.

Gentle chills passed through her body as she remembered the breath of Elohim consuming her womb filling it with a holy life.  She shivered again in the coldness of the winter evening.  It felt like it would snow, but that rarely happened in the Galilee, only on Mt. Hermon.  Her heart warmed with the memory of Yosef’s enduring devotion in the midst of the local scandal.  Being pregnant and only betrothed made her appear to be a fornicator, a common whore.  Yosef, who knew the truth and loved her deeply, remained faithful to her and believed her because he, too, had had a visit from an angel.  

She reached for a jar of oil sitting on the shelf above where the shadow continued to flicker.    The oil of gladness. The oil of anointing.  The oil that miraculously lasted eight days at the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem.   Tonight her son was in Jerusalem walking in the Temple among the Jewish leaders.  She could almost hear him speaking as she took another lamp, filled it with oil and placed it on the table.  “You have seen me do many miracles –– good deeds that reflect the Father’s power.”

Yes, she had witnessed his first miracle when he changed water into the most delicious wine she had ever tasted at Solomon and Rachel’s wedding.  The whole village of Kana couldn’t stop talking about the quality of that wine, even today Chava told Miriam she wished she had some of that delicious wine for the upcoming Shabbat.   After he raised Lazarus from the dead, all of Isra’el seemed to be talking about her son. Some murmured about him while others wondered at his authority and followed him.  For those in her own village of Nazareth, he was unable to do any miracles because of their unbelief.   They had thrown him out of the synagogue and tried to push him off Mount Kedumim.    

 She went around her simple home collecting several more lamps and filled them with oil.  From the lamp on the table, she lit four lamps and they began burning brightly.  The flames of two lamps lit her path as she walked toward the window holding one in each hand.   As she placed them on the sill,  she looked out over the countryside.  The clear sky allowed the waning moon to shadow the hillsides in the Galilee all the way to the Temple so far away.

She remembered the first time she went to the Temple with her husband and son.  She had just completed her days of purification.  She and Yosef offered two turtle doves for redeeming their firstborn according to the commandment.  Moments after, as they walked through the Temple courts, an old prophet named  Shimon stopped to look at her baby.  His words filled her mind and she again contemplated the prophecy over her son.  “Now, Elohim, according to Your word, your servant is at peace as you let him go; for I have seen with my own eyes your yeshua, which you prepared in the presence of all peoples –– a light that will bring revelation to the nations and glory to your people Isra’el.”

As she turned from the window to retrieve the other two lamps from the table where their flames still burned brightly, a familiar voice echoed off the walls in the quiet room; the voice of her son teaching his younger brothers and sisters who always looked at him with wide eyes, open ears, and tender hearts.  “My sheep listen to my voice.  I recognize them, they follow me and I give them eternal life.”  A smile crossed Miriam’s face as she could still see young Yakov’s upturned face reflecting the radiance of his older and wiser brother. 

The second time she and Yosef visited the Temple they thought they had lost their son in the crowds at Pesach, but they found him teaching in the Temple.  To Yosef’s amazement, he had been instructing the rabbis with the same compassion and authority as he did his own siblings.  She took two more burning lamps to the window sill. She still had two more to go.  Tonight was the sixth night of the Feast of Dedication.  

She lit two more lamps from near her bedside and the room began to glow.  In the midst of the flickering light, she remembered the other prophecy given to her and Yosef at the time of their son’s redemption.  A beautiful old woman with a radiant countenance named Anna came to them and touched the cheeks of their baby.  She smiled at Yosef and then spoke to Miriam, “This child will cause many in Isra’el to fall and to rise, he will become a sign whom people will speak against; moreover, a sword will pierce your own heart too.  All this will happen in order to reveal many people’s inmost thoughts.” 

Miriam spoke out loud breaking the quietness of the room, “My son and His Father are one.”  Perhaps tonight would be the night he would tell our people who he is.  Perhaps he will finally reveal his identity to Isra’el.  Suddenly, her thoughts frightened her.  She wondered what would become of her son as he walked in Solomon’s Colonnade.  Though he always imparted wisdom from his Father, the leaders were always anxious to rid themselves of him.  She had heard rumors they wanted him dead, but could find no reason to pursue it. Would they find a reason tonight? Would they stone him as a blasphemer or follow him as the shepherd of the lost sheep of the house of Isra’el?

Many Jews in Israel died by the sword in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes.  Could it happen again?  Now?  Tonight?  She shuddered as she carried the final two oil lamps to the window.  She noticed that many of the village homes had oil lamps burning in their windows. It seemed as though they lit up the world with the reminder that Isra’el would always be victorious over their enemies.  

After she watched the flames of the village burn for several minutes, she walked across the room toward her rocking chair.  It was made of twisted olive wood and was uniquely fashioned by the hands of her beloved Yosef.  He had been such an honorable husband and a good father.  She missed his tender heart and strong hands. She sat down and began to rock in the glow of the oil lamps.  She could almost feel their warmth as her face reflected the presence of El Shaddai in her home.

Shalom came to her heart with the warm luminescence of the flames and replaced the unwelcome fear with a song, “My soul magnifies Adonai Elohim and my spirit rejoices in God, my yeshua.  Once again, He takes notice of his servant woman in her humble position.”  Comforted by the Spirit of Elohim, she knew nothing could take her from His hands.

As she continued to rock, she gazed around the room where her children used to play with the wooden tops their father whittled for them when they were each old enough to spin one.  Nes gadol haya peh –– nun, gimel, hey, peh –– a great miracle happened here.  Everyone in Isra’el remembered the miraculous days of the Maccabees, but for Miriam the letters on the tops reminded her of her own personal miracle.  She paused in her thoughts.  For a long time she could only treasure in her heart the gift she had been given, the gift to birth the light of the world.  

Immediately after the angel’s visit, Miriam had gone to visit her cousin.  The angel had told her that Elisheva, who was past childbearing years, was also expecting a baby.  Their children would also be cousins!  When she arrived in the Judean hill country where Elisheva and Zechariah lived, she knocked on the door never expecting to see Elisheva’s expanding belly or hear the words that still penetrated Miriam’s soul, “How blessed are you among women!  And how blessed is the child in your womb!”  Elisheva knew.  Elisheva understood.  For the next six months,  they worshiped and blessed the Most High and His miracles to them. 

The oil lamp on the table flickered.  Shadows from the flames in the window danced on the walls.  Miriam hummed and then began singing, “He has performed mighty deeds with his arm, routed the secretly proud, brought down rulers from their thrones, raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, but sends the rich away empty.”

The lamps on the window sill  burned for several hours until only one continued with its dwindling amount of oil.  A miracle was happening now, in the present.  Her son, no longer a child but the grown Son of the God, would fulfill Elohim’s promises to their forefather Abraham and his seed forever.  Tonight in Jerusalem, her son walked in his Father’s house, the Temple.  His ancestor, King David desired to build a house for Elohim, but was given the greater promise of an eternal kingdom.   Her son was that promised seed, the evidence that the Kingdom had arrived.  

As the last lamp flickered out, Miriam continued to rock and closed her eyes in the darkness.   Yeshua carried his Father’s name, the ‘I Am.’  He was no ordinary son; she was favored to be his mother. He was the reason she dedicated her life and soul to embracing the words of the angel.  They named him Yeshua, the name given to Yosef when the angel spoke with him.  Her son is the Light of the world, the One who fills all lamps with oil.   He is the Miracle who is bringing the eternal Kingdom into this world. Tonight, he would reveal his identity to Isra’el, and Miriam knew that someday in the future a sword would pierce her heart.   

(Exodus 3, Matthew 1, 2, 25, Mark 6, Luke 1, 2, John 2,  10, John 1, 11)

©2016 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Days of Dedication – Hanukkah

Menorahs and Hanukkiahs for Feast of Dedication

“Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…. We will not obey the king’s word by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left” (Septuagint*, 1 Maccabees 2:19-22).

Most people have heard of the holiday called Hanukkah or Chanukkah. Some believe that it is the Jewish alternative to Christmas. However, these two celebrations have nothing in common.

In Hebrew, the word chanak means ‘dedicate.’ Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration also known as the Feast of Dedication. During Hanukkah, a special menorah called a hanukkiah is lit and put in the window. Each of the eight nights of Hanukkah one candle is lit by using the ‘helper candle’ or shamash until all eight candles and the shamash are burning.

The historical account of Hanukkah is not found in the modern versions of the Bible. It was removed from the canon of Scripture by Martin Luther because the festival conflicted with his anti-semitic theological views. However, the events surrounding the eight days of Hanukkah are written in the Septuagint Book of Maccabees, and recorded by the Jewish historian Josephus. According to both accounts, the eight days of Hanukkah is to be celebrated every year memorializing the cleansing and re-dedication of the Temple and the Altar of Sacrifice.

“So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise. Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with gladness and joy for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (1 Maccabees 4:56-59).

“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days; and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon: but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honoured God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was, because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that hence was the name given to that festival” (Josephus 12:5).

A Little History

The events surrounding Hanukkah began in 167 BCE when the Greek Antiochus Epiphanes became king over the Seleucid Empire which included the land of Israel. His name meant ‘antichrist god incarnate,’ and as such, he attacked the God of Israel through the Jewish people. In order to have a one-world religious and cultural system, his goal was to force Hellenistic pagan gods and customs on everyone in his empire , including the Jewish people. He wanted to nullify the Torah, invalidate the Levitical priesthood, cancel dietary laws, outlaw circumcision, and remove the Sabbath –– everything Jewish.

The Jewish battle for independence from Syrian rule began when a Levitical priest named Mattathias was commanded by a Greek official to make a sacrifice to a Greek god. Mattathias not only refused, but killed a Jewish man who began to do so. He also killed the official. When an edict for his arrest was sent out, Mattathias hid in the Judean wilderness with his five sons calling for other faithful Jews to join him. Many did follow him into the wilderness, and with the leadership of his son Judah, a small band of Jewish men began to revolt.

“Let everyone who has zeal for the Torah and who stands by the covenant follow me!” (1 Maccabees 2:17, Septuagint) 

As the Greek armies went on their conquest,  other Jewish men, women and children succumbed to Antiochus’ commands. Those who didn’t follow his orders were imprisoned or murdered.  The Jewish people feared for their very exAs the Syrian armies conquered the land, other Jewish men, women, and children succumbed to Antiochus’ commands. Those who didn’t follow his orders were imprisoned or murdered. The Jewish people feared for their very existence. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, this lawless Greek didn’t succeed with his ultimate plan or there would have been no lineage from which the Messiah could come!

Judah was given the nickname ‘hammer’ or Maccabee, an acronym for Mecha-mocha ba’alim HaShem, meaning “Who is like you among the powers, O God,” became the battle cry of the rag tag Jewish resistance. Judah Maccabee was not only from the Levitical lineage, but he served the God of Israel faithfully, wholeheartedly, and courageously. His words were always filled with the hope and power of the God of Israel just like his predecessor, the warrior King David. The Maccabees who numbered under 12,000 with little to no training or equipment fought fearlessly against the Syrian armies who were highly trained, rode elephants, and numbered over 40,000.

“But Judas said: ‘Many are easily hemmed in by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven’” (1 Maccabees 3:18-19)

After three years of continuous fighting, tearing down pagan altars, circumcising uncircumcised boys, and rescuing Torah scrolls from the hands of the Greek, Judah Maccabee and his little army miraculously regained control over Jerusalem. They went into the Temple and saw its defilement. The courts had bushes and thickets, the gates were burned, and the priests chambers destroyed. Pigs had been sacrificed on the Altar and the blood sprinkled throughout the Holy Place. The Menorah was gone, either stolen or melted down for its gold. A statue of Zeus sat in the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant should have been. They mourned the desecration, tore their clothes, blew the shofar, and cried out to God.

“Then said Judas and his brothers, “Behold, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it” (1 Maccabees 4:36).

Judah chose some men to fight against the Syrians remaining in the city. He chose others who were priests and devoted to Torah to clean the Temple. They removed the defiled stones and replaced them with uncut ones. They tore down the Altar and built a new one. They made new holy vessels. They burned incense on the new Altar, put bread on the new Table of Presence.

What About the Missing Menorah?

A midrash from Pesitka Rabatti 2:1 suggests that when the Maccabees entered the Temple and did not find the Menorah, the Levitical priests improvised by putting together a simple Menorah made of spears. The midrash speculates that the spears had been left behind by the Syrian soldiers who fled quickly when they were defeated. Transforming enemy spears into the branches of the Menorah would allow for the light to return to the Temple.

However, when the priests went to light the Menorah, they found only enough consecrated oil to last one day. To consecrate more oil would take eight days. Then, a miracle happened. The one jar of oil lasted eight days and the Menorah burned brightly and continuously as God commanded for an eight-day dedication.

“Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, which is the month of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-eighth year,  they rose and offered sacrifice, as the law directs, on the new altar of burnt offering which they had built.  At the very season and on the very day that the Gentiles had profaned it, it was dedicated with songs and harps and lutes and cymbals. All the people fell on their faces and worshiped and blessed Heaven, who had prospered them.  So they celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days, and offered burnt offerings with gladness; they offered a sacrifice of deliverance and praise” (1 Maccabees 4:52-56).

A Gambling Game

During the years of Greek persecution, unwanted and surprise visits by the Syrian soldiers often came when Jewish men were studying the Torah. If they were caught, the Torah scroll would be shredded into pieces, and those studying Torah would be put to death. According to tradition, one way they protected their scrolls and lives during an invasion was the invention of a game placed with tops. If soldiers came to the door, the Jews would hide their Torah scrolls, pull out their tops, and begin gambling. This tradition is remembered today with a top called a dreidel that has four letters inscribed on each side: Nun, Gimel, Hey and Shin. The letters stand for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham or ‘A Great Miracle Happened There.’ In Israel, the dreidels have one different letter, the Peh, signifying ‘A Great Miracle Happened Here.

Yeshua and Hanukkah

Hanukkah is mentioned in the John 10:22-39 as the Feast of Dedication. It was winter and Yeshua walked in Solomon’s Colonnade of the Temple. Though Hanukkah was a celebration about the re-dedication of the Altar in the Temple of Jerusalem, the focus of the Jews wasn’t on sacrifices and offerings, but on the miracle of the oil and the light. As they are celebrating miracles, they began asking Yeshua if he is the promised Messiah. Yeshua reminds them of all the miracles he has done “in his Father’s name.”

“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:25-29).

The greatest miracle –– the Light of the World –– stood in front of the Jewish people at the Temple. The Menorah that burned brightly had become flesh and blood. Just as the oil miraculously lit the Menorah, the Spirit of God filled Yeshua and his light illuminated the Temple during the festival of lights. He no longer remained silent about his identity, but answered their question clearly giving them no doubt as to his identity: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). 

Hanukkah and Us

“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for God. This will please him; it is the logical “Temple worship” for you” (Romans 11:1).

Paul teaches that we are to honor God with our bodies because they are the temple of God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Our temple worship is to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. This is the spiritual essence of Hanukkah –– cleansing our Altar of Sacrifice from everything that contaminates and defiles God’s holy dwelling.

“Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises [and miracles], let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, out of reverence for God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The eight days of Hanukkah are the perfect time for Messianic gentiles to do some temple house cleaning in order to hear the voice of our Shepherd more clearly. Each night of Hanukkah Yeshua’s light is present in the shamash that lights each individual wick on the hanukkiah. He is the Menorah from where the holy oil of God’s Spirit flows and illuminates those hidden areas of our lives that need to be purged and burnt up on the Altar of Sacrifice. By the eighth evening of Hanukkah, our physical and spiritual temples should be a reflection of the miracles that occurred in the Temple during the days of Judah Maccabee.

*The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from 2 BCE.  The two books of the Maccabees are found in this translation as well as the Apocrypha.

 For more about Yeshua fullfilling the ‘appointed times,’ purchase Yeshua in His Father’s Feasts.

©2012 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.